Did the “China Shock” affect British voters’ attitudes and voting behavior in Brexit?

University essay from Lunds universitet/Nationalekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: Recent years’ political development in Europe as well as in the US reflects a growing support for anti-globalization movements, protectionism and stronger nation-states. The victory for the Leave option in the Brexit referendum further emphasized this development, since many of these views were promoted by the Leave side. Previous research has investigated the relationship between globalization in terms of increased international trade and political behavior by studying the effects on regional labor markets from trade with China. An extensive literature has grown around the method of using China’s rapid economic emergence and accession to the WTO in 2001 since it constitutes an exogenous import shock to many developed countries. This study continues this literature by investigating the impact of increased international trade, measured through the so-called China import shock, on voters’ attitudes and voting behavior in the Brexit referendum. Through a cross-sectional study, this paper contributes to existing literature by including the perspective of attitudes since it makes it possible to investigate whether a vote for Leave was a way of expressing general dissatisfaction or a direct protest vote against international trade and globalization. The results of this paper suggest that no support can be found for the import shock having effect on neither voting behavior nor voters’ attitudes in Brexit. Nevertheless, individual and regional factors were on the other hand found to have significant positive effect, indicating that older and less educated people in regions with higher unemployment rates were more likely to both support the Leave option and to express negative attitudes toward trade and globalization.

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